Latin Mass Society

Chairman's Blog

07/10/2017 - 18:03

The Correctio on social media: some links

This is an update on the post I did on the media response to the Filial Correction, in which I noted how the secular, mainstream press picked up the story from the embargo deadline - actually, a bit before the deadline...
So here's my handy guide to the Catholic media debate on the Correction.

Stephen 'liars and hypocrites' Walford criticised the Correction in the National Catholic Reporter, on the basis of his habitual confusion between the categories of the disciplinary and dogmatic; I responded on LifeSiteNews, and after some Twitter debate, some more here.

Mgr Mariano Fazio, Opus Dei's Vicar General (effectively the 2nd in command) criticised it in an interview with a French newspaper on the grounds that it was disloyal to the Pope; I responded on LifeSiteNews.

The US-based theologian Massimo Faggioli criticised the Correction as part of a wider Traditionist campaign against Vatican II in International La Croixfollowing this up with a stream of tweets like this one:

This led to a storm of criticism on Twitter, and it appears Faggioli deleted that particular tweet. Basing himself on the ones which were left, the non-signatory blogging monk, Fr Hugh Somerville-Knapman, published an excellent response on the hermeneutic of rupture.

Dr Fastiggi and Dawn Eden Goldstein used an issue of translation of Amoris to undermine part of the argument of the Correction in Vatican Insider; Chris Ferrara responded very fully in The Remnant.

The same two again took took to Vatican Insider to criticise it by reference to the rules for dissident theologians contained in the Instruction Donum veritatis; I responded here and on Rorate Caeli. They replied in my combox and I have replied to that here.

The general question of whether theologians and others are allowed to express their concerns publicly is addressed in magisterial detail by the signatory, theologian Michael Sirilla, on One Peter Five, and in more general terms by the canonist Edward Peters.

Rocco Butiglione criticised the Correctio, also in Vatican Insider on the grounds that Amoris can be interepreted in line with the preceding teaching of the Church. The canonist Edward Peters, while 'neutral' on the Filial Correction itself, pointed out multiple errors in Buttiglione's understanding of relevant Canon law here. Another response, by the distinguished theologian and signatory Claudio Pierantoni, is in the works.

In the meantime support for the initiative has come from the Oxford academic Fr Andrew Pinsent, who explained why he signed the Correction to the Catholic Herald, along with the retired American Bishop Gracida.

Fr Ray Blake (123) and Fr John Hunwicke (12, 3) each produced a series of posts supporting the Correction, notably on the climate of fear in the Church which is preventing many priests and others from adding their names (Fr Hunwicke is a signatory, Fr Blake is not).

In addition the contributions I have picked out, there has been a torrent of other supportive articles and posts on One Peter Five, Rorate Caeli, LifeSiteNews, and by Fr Hunwicke, and of course elsewhere.

The discussion has not been taking place solely in English, however. The Bologna professor and priest Don Alberto Strumia, a signatory to the Correction, gave an interview in its defence on September 30th in the Italian daily, Il Giornale, for example.

The German website carries an article by the Italian historian and signatory, Robert de Mattei, in German.

I have spoken to or given email interiews with journalists in Hungary and Poland.

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06/10/2017 - 11:18

Fastiggi & Goldstein reply: I respond

Robert Fastiggi and Dawn Eden Goldstein have done me the honour of a reply, at some length, to my post, in my comments box. I want to take this as seriously as possible, so I paste it in below, in full, in bold, with my replies to each point.

Dear Dr. Shaw,

Dr. Dawn Eden Goldstein and I wish to thank you for your tone of civility. We hope to reply with equal civility regarding your post: “A Challenge for Fastiggi and Goldstein.”

Thank you.

Our points of response are the following:

1. You are correct that “impressions” are subjective. Our point, however, is that your subjective impressions regarding papal words and actions are not shared by all. In justice there is always a need to determine what people mean before making judgments of potential heresy. When the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith examines cases of possible heresy, it follows strict norms of procedure in order to insure justice for the one accused (See CDF, Regulations for Doctrinal Examination, Ratio Agendi May 30, 1997; AAS 89 [1997] 830–835). If so much care is given to the examination of individual theologians before making judgments of heresy, should not the same be extended to the Roman Pontiff? Canon law tells us: “The First See is judged by no one” (CIC [1983] canon 1404).

Certainly the Pope deserves the chance to clarify what exactly he means, in the context of disagreement about what that may be. That is why many people, including the ‘Four Cardinals’, have been respectfully but urgently asking Pope Francis for such a clarification: as you know they wrote to him in September 2016, more than two years ago. He has not responded formally, but meanwhile many of his supporters have been telling us that various informal responses are clear enough, and have criticised strongly those unwilling to allow their interpretation of Amoris to be guided by these informal indications. In any case, other people have been guided by them, and Pope Francis has not intervened to put them right.

The Correctio makes it very clear that we are not judging the Pope or accusing him of the sin of heresy.
2. You object to the word “mostly” when we say that your claim of Pope Francis not wanting orthodoxy is derived “mostly [from] non-authoritative statements of the Pope” and not, as you assert, “entirely [from] non-authoritative statements.” Mostly is correct because, in addition to citing references to non-authoritative sources, the Correctio filialis speaks of “the propagation of heresies effected by the apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia and by other words, deeds, and omissions of Your Holiness.” As a papal exhortation, Amoris laetitia would carry the same authority of the ordinary papal Magisterium as St. John Paul II’s Familiaris consortio of 1981.

Documents emanating from the Holy See or General Councils can contain both Magisterial and non-Magisterial statements. Non-Magisterial statements would include, obviously, those not concerning faith and morals, such as historical claims. They also include statements which are unclear: there can be no obligation on Catholics to believe a statement if they cannot determine what the statement means. Yet another category of non-Magisterial statements in official documents are those which go beyond or against the Ordinary Magisterium.

An example of this last case which is not controversial is the claim of the Council of Florence-Ferrara that the sacramental ‘matter’ in priestly ordination is not the laying-on of hands, but the handing over of the chalice. We commonly say that statements of General Councils other than anathemas have non-infallible teaching authority from the Ordinary Magisterium. In such a case, however, it would be more accurate to say that this statement is not a statement of the Ordinary Magisterium at all, since it contradicts the Ordinary Magisterium, and the Ordinary Magisterium cannot contradict itself.

The contention of the Correctio Filialis is that the statements of Amoris which concern us are ambiguous: they can be read in accordance with the Ordinary Magisterium, which we would obviously accept, or they can be read as contradicting the Ordinary Magisterium. Those who insist on the latter possibility cannot, of course, simultaneously claim that they are examplesof the Ordinary Magisterium and are therefore binding. You can’t be bound, by the Ordinary Magisterium, to reject the Ordinary Magisterium.
3. You mention the private letter of Pope Francis to the Bishops of Buenos Aires as an example of something that is “impossible to square with the constant teaching of the Church.” Cardinal Müller, however, in his Sept. 28 National Catholic Register interview with Edward Pentin, said: “[If] you look at what the Argentine bishops wrote in their directive, you can interpret this in an orthodox way” ( What you consider “impossible” to square with orthodoxy, others find possible.

That no-one disagrees with me is not part of what I am claiming. It would be interesting, though hardly decisive, to know what Cardinal Müller thinks of the guidelines of the Bishops of Malta, which seem to go beyond those of the bishops of Buenos Aires, in clearly contradicting Canon 915.

4. You ask what we would do if we thought the pope of the day were indicating non-authoritatively that bishops and ordinary Catholics should act and believe in ways contrary to the teaching of the Church? This is something purely hypothetical. Neither of us believe Pope Francis is asking people to act or believe in ways contrary to the teaching of the Church. If, though, we thought we were facing such a situation, we would make our concerns known to our Ordinary first and then, if need be, to the papal Nuncio or the Holy See. We would not have recourse to the mass media.

We and many others who have had concerns over Amoris and its interpretations have gone to considerable trouble to go through the proper channels. Grouping together to compose and sign a joint statement is an obvious way to maximise the ‘knowledge, competence and position’ mentioned in Canon 212 in relation to appeals by the Faithful; it would also be impractical to expect the Holy See to response to hundreds of individual petitions. Being an international group means that we do not have a single Ordinary or indeed a single Papal Nuncio. There is nothing in Canon Law which prohibits us from appealing directly to the Pope, but as a matter of fact many of us first appealed to the College of Cardinals, a year ago. Finally, we did not ‘have recourse to the mass media’ until six weeks had passed, without response, since our petition was given personally to the Holy Father.

Ruling out ‘recourse to the mass media’ in all circumstances clearly contradicts Canon 212 which notes that it can be an obligation to make concerns known to ‘others of Christ's faithful’, and is therefore ruled out as a sensible reading of Donum veritatis, from which you take the phrase.

I would suggest that were you facing that situation, and were you to respond as you suggest, you could very well find yourselves failing to discharge the duty which Canon 212 mentions, to make your concerns known to other members of the Faithful. For myself, I feel subjectively obliged to act because it seems clear to me that, given the knowledge, competence and position of my fellow signatories, and given that bishops and the Holy Father are not (or not all) acting to defend the Magisterium, we can and must warn the Faithful about a proximate danger to the Faith.

5. Your point about Donum veritatis referring to theologians who reject the ordinary Magisterium begs the question because you have not established that Pope Francis is going against any teaching of the Magisterium. You cite canon 212§3, but you fail to mention that it also requires manifesting opinions with reverence toward pastors and attention to “the common advantage and the dignity of persons.” We question whether accusing Pope Francis of propagating heresies is really showing reverence, and we question whether this serves the common advantage of the Church and the dignity of persons. We also do not believe that the Correctio follows the guidelines of Donum veritatis, as we explained in our article.

The text of the Correctio makes the case in detail, and with copious documentation, for the view that, by his words, deeds, and omissions, Pope Francis is propagating views contrary to the Magisterium. A bald denial by you is hardly an adequate response.

We are very aware of the requirement of Canon 212 (and of common sense) for reverence, attention to the common advantage, and so on. Again, a bald assertion by you that we have failed to do this is no argument.

You appear to be missing what should be obvious, that we believe that Pope Francis is doing what we claim he is doing. Given our subjective position, what is it we are obliged to do, in conscience, and how should we go about it? It is not an act of reverence or affection to fail to point out grave and urgent problems in a Pope’s government of the Church: to fail in this way is to act as a timeserving courtier, not a faithful member of the Mystical Body. Those who love the Pope and respect his office should feel profoundly the duty to make clear exactly how serious the problem is, however much what they say is expressed in respectful terms, and however much they may wish to give the Pope the chance to clarify his position privately and so on. I really cannot see how the Correctio can be faulted on these grounds.

6. You mention that Matthew 18:15–17 allows for making problems public when private admonitions fail. This text, though, advises taking a brother to the Church for correction. It does not advise correcting the head of the Church.

This seems a most surprising reading of Matthew 18:15-17, in light of Galatians 2:11, in which St Paul recalls how he ‘opposed’ St Peter, the Pope, ‘to his face’, and the tradition of interpretation the latter text has had among the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. The most famous example of this tradition of interpretation is St Thomas Aquinas, who notes two other scriptural passages:

Lev. 19:17: ‘Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart: but reprove him openly, lest thou incur sin through him.’

We could also add Ezekial 33:8: ‘If thou dost not speak to warn the wicked man from his way: that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but I will require his blood at thy hand.’

Aquinas continues: ‘Apropos of what is said in a certain Gloss, namely, that I withstood him as an adversary, the answer is that the Apostle opposed Peter in the exercise of authority, not in his authority of ruling. Therefore from the foregoing we have an example: prelates, indeed, an example of humility, that they not disdain corrections from those who are lower and subject to them; subjects have an example of zeal and freedom, that they fear not to correct their prelates, particularly if their crime is public and verges upon danger to the multitude.’

7. Like you, we wish to affirm the teachings of the infallible Ordinary and Universal Magisterium. We are not questioning your faith or sincerity; we are only questioning your methods.

Affirming the infallible Ordinary and Universal Magisterium requires of Catholics that they not only live by it, but as God’s honour and the good of their neighbours requires, witness to it publicly.

Oremus pro invicem,

Robert Fastiggi, Ph.D. and Dawn Eden Goldstein, S.T.D.

Thank you for responding.

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05/10/2017 - 19:22

A challenge for Fastiggi and Goldstein

You know you've had an influence when the Vatican Insider addresses you by name.

Roberto Fastiggi and Dawn Eden Goldstein write:

It seems that the case for the Amoris laetitia critics’ self-proclaimed “Filial Correction” (1) of Pope Francis is weakening. Dr. Joseph Shaw, one of the signers of the Correctio filialis, recently wrote: “It is not that we’re saying that the text of Amoris cannot be bent into some kind of orthodoxy. What we are saying is that it has become clear that orthodoxy is not what Pope Francis wants us to find there.” (2)

Shaw’s claim that Pope Francis doesn’t want orthodoxy, however, is based on subjective impressions derived from mostly non-authoritative statements of the Pope. This does not seem to be a very strong foundation for accusing the Roman Pontiff of promoting false teachings and heresies.
What interests me about this is less the attempt to suggest that the Correction's signatories are shifting their position--we haven't in the least, although we are getting used to our critics using calling us names and being economical with the truth--but the second paragraph I quote. For the information of Fastiggi and Goldstein, 'impressions' are always subjective, but they are our window onto the world. What we can determine about what what is going on, based--obviously--on what we can see and hear ('impressions'), is indeed that 'Pope Francis doesn’t want orthodoxy'.

And I would go further than what F & G say: our impression is not based 'mostly' on non-authoritative statements, but entirely upon non-authoritative statements by Pope Francis, plus his failures to speak. It should be obvious that it is impossible for the Supreme Pontiff to guide the Church away from the Deposit of Faith authoritatively, since his authority is given him to confirm the brethren in the Faith. What we find, indeed, is that Pope Francis has singled out modes of communication which cannot possibly be mistaken for authoritative statements, when he indicates the kind of interpretation he wishes people to have of Amoris laetitia. These include his remark in a press conference that Amoris makes a 'change'; a private letter to the Bishops of Buenos Aires; the printing of the guidlines drawn up by the Bishops of Malta in L'Ossovatore Romano; and most eloquent of all, his refusal to answer the Four Cardinals' Dubia.

It is not our impression only: it is the impression gained by many theologians and bishops who regard themselves as loyal to the Pope, who are taking the hints, the nods, and the winks, and are writing, and promulgating guidlines for their flocks, which are impossible to square with the constant practice and teaching of the Church, or indeed with Canon law as it currently exists.

My challenge to Fastiggi and Goldstein is a simple one. What would they do if they thought that the pope of the day were doing this: indicating non-authoritatively that bishops and ordinary Catholics should act and believe in ways contrary to the teaching of the Church? What would they regard as the correct response to the situation we believe we are actually facing?

This is clearly not an impossible situation. Even those with an exaggerated view of the authority of the Pope must surely admit, unless they have left common sense entirely behind, that it is theoretically possible for a Pope, who can after all teach non-infallibly, to say things about faith and morals, when not teaching, say things about faith and morals which are not correct. What should the Faithful, and particularly academics and pastors, do in this situation?

The answer which comes to mind, inspired by Canon 212, is that those who think that this is happening should make their concerns known to the proper authorities, without ruling out that they should make them known to their fellow Catholics. In light of Matthew 18:15, it makes sense to go public when private communications have had no effect.

What Fastiggi and Goldstein point to instead, is the passage in Donum veritatis which tells dissident theologians to talk to their superiors rather than to appeal to the mass media. F & G appear to imagine that this imposes silence on all educated Catholics whatever the situation might be. But Donum veritatis cannot be read in this way.

First, it speaks of theologians who reject the Ordinary Magisterium, not to those who wish to uphold it. Secondly, it speaks of theologians who have (or easily could have) dialogue with their superiors. It would be a very different matter for Donum veritatis to say that theologians should not publicly support the Magisterium, or for it to contradict Canon 212 by saying that lay Catholics in general should not make clear 'concerns' to their fellow Catholics, or indeed to contradict Matthew 18:15-17 about making problems public when private admonitions have failed. For DV to have said any of those things would, obviously, have been insane.

It is not the signatories of the Correction who are ignoring the Ordinary Magisterium: if it were not enough to cite Canon Law and Familiaris Consortio, we could cite canons and magisterial documents going back centuries, all the way, in fact, back to St Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:27, and beyond. It is this teaching, the teaching of the infallible Ordinary and Universal Magisterium, which Fastiggi and Goldstein do not want us to reiterate in this moment of crisis.

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05/10/2017 - 10:28

'Do not correct your father in public': a response to Mgr Fazio of Opus Dei on the Correctio Filialis

The prophet Daniel, as a child, having saved the innocent Susanna
from the accusations of the wicked Elders, condemns them to death. Dan 13

Today Diane Montagna publishes a fairly long interview with me on LifeSiteNews; here are some highlights. Read the whole thing there.

The “filial correction” has drawn considerable attention in both Catholic and secular media. Why did the authors and organizers of the correction go public with it? And why is it not a “display of disunity,” as the Argentinian Vicar General of Opus Dei suggests?
Those Catholics concerned about the direction of the debate about remarriage and Communion, and related issues, have made repeated attempts to express these concerns in ways which would not create a public impression of opposition to the person of the Pope. The ‘Filial Appeal’, signed by 800,000 people, was part of a debate called for by Pope Francis before he had composed Amoris. The letter of the ‘13 Cardinals’ and the ‘45 academics and pastors’ appeal to Cardinals’ were, alike, not intended to be public documents. Obviously, in this way these initiatives observed both the letter and the spirit of Matthew 18:15-17 on speaking first to one’s brother in private.


Can you point to a passage in Scripture, a Doctor or Father of the Church, or perhaps even a famous piece of Literature, that illustrates your point?
Both Testaments of Scripture are replete with examples of subordinates criticising superiors in public. The criticism of the leaders of Israel by prophets and priests, from the public humiliation of King Saul by Samuel, the denunciation of King Ahab by Elijah, and the attack on Herod the Tetrarch by St John the Baptist, are in general the criticism of official, and usually divinely sanctioned, authority, by persons who may have been inspired by God, but who lacked institutional standing. This pattern is taken to its logical extreme by the condemnation of the Elders by the prophet Daniel when only a child (Dan 13:45ff). Our Lord made the situation clear when, while eviscerating the Chief Priests, Scribes, and Pharisees, he acknowledged nonetheless that they held ‘the seat of Moses’, a position which meant that people should listen to them as speaking with authority, despite all their shortcomings (Matthew 23:2-3).


Is there anything else you would like to add?

Something profoundly worrying about criticisms on the signatories of the Correction specifically for speaking out about problems which every informed Catholic already knows about, is the mindset it reveals, one focused not on the truth, but on appearances. It is strongly reminiscent of the mindset at work in abusive families, where children are taught to pretend things are all right, when they are not: certain topics are not to be broached, certain facts are not to be referred to. This attitude can be enforced not by the abusive parent directly, but by other family members who are trying to keep up appearances and hold the family together. It is nevertheless profoundly unhealthy, and indeed is linked to psychological disorders in the children.

We should fear any such attitude, however well-intentioned, invading the Church. If there are problems, we should talk about them, and not pretend they do not exist.

Read the whole thing there.

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04/10/2017 - 10:00

Successful Mass in Romney Marsh Church

From the LMS

History was made in Kent when the Catholic Mass returned to a medieval church on Romney Marsh for only the third time since the Reformation.

On 23rd September the beautiful sound of Gregorian Chant could be heard across the Kent marshes as St Augustine’s in Snave hosted a Traditional Latin Mass.

Organised by the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, this historic event attracted people from far and wide. Not for so many years has this little country church seen its pews packed full of Catholic worshippers.

Local Kent resident Marygold Turner from the Latin Mass Society who organised this popular event said “We are so very grateful to the Marshes Trust for allowing us to hold this wonderful Mass. It was very moving and the music was exceptional.”

Snave is one of a group of medieval churches built to serve very small communities on Romney Marsh in Kent. St Augustine’s, now redundant, is in the care of the Romney Marsh Historic Churches Trust.

Peter Anwyl-Harris, Chairman of the Trust, speaking after the Mass, thanked those involved with organising the event and extended an invitation to the Latin Mass Society to return to Snave next year.

The Latin Mass was celebrated by Mgr Anthony Conlon and the superb music which included Missa Trahe Me Post Te by the Renaissance composer Tomas Luis de Victoria was sung by local professional group The Victoria Consort.

The Latin Mass Society return to Kent on Saturday 7th October with a Pilgrimage to the ancient Carmelite priory at Aylesford.

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03/10/2017 - 10:00

News on the Extraordinary Form in Bedford

Cross-posted from the LMS Bedford blog, about developments concerning the regular Sunday 8:30am Traditional Mass in the Church of Christ the King, Harrowden Road, Bedford MK42 0SP

Latin Masses at Bedford will, from next week (8th October), be celebrated by priests from the international Catholic order the Fraternity of St. Peter from their base in Reading. They also anticipate celebrating Mass on most Holydays of Obligation at 7:30pm.

Fr. Matthew Goddard FSSP, the Superior in Reading, will celebrate the first Mass of the regular FSSP apostolate next week, at 8:30am. All are welcome and he would love to meet you afterwards over tea and coffee in the hall.
We are extremely appreciative of the FSSP’s support, both supplying priests on a one off basis when holiday season struck down our regular celebrants, and now making a longer term commitment to the area through regular Masses. But it’s not just looking forward to exciting times ahead – we are tremendously grateful to the priests who have said Mass in Bedford over the last 26 months; some making six hour round trips three weekends in a row, others cutting short holidays to be able to make the Mass, still others getting up at 5am for an early morning taxi or train in the middle of winter. We are lucky to have met many wonderful priests and begun to understand different approaches to the Latin Mass, all of which have enriched our faith.
Finally, none of this would have been possible without the openness and hospitality of Fr. Patrick and his wife Rita. Their wisdom and experience has made the integration of a Latin Mass into the thriving Bedford parish much easier than it might have been, and they, along with the parishioners attending the English Mass, have made us feel welcome at every moment of our time in Bedford.
Deo Gratias! Please do come to the Masses if you are within range of Bedford and if you aren’t please pray for us and consider supporting the FSSP’s apostolate in the UK.

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02/10/2017 - 10:00

A few fallacies of the opponents of the Correctio


The other day I had a long exchange on Twitter with Stephen Walford, which was a frustrating experience, so I thought I'd set out in more detail a few of the things he and others don't get about the Correctio Filialis.

As I've noted before, Walford and others like say that Pope Francis has not changed doctrine, only practice. But with the same breath Walford appeals to Pope Francis' magisterial authority, and Catholics' obligations to believe, assent to, what he teaches, as applying to the new practice.

This suggests an incapacity to distinguish correctly between dogmatic and disciplinary acts. When I pointed out that 'assent' is something which only has relevance in relation to propositions, as opposed to commands (or questions, etc.), he still failed to see what difference it made.

It makes this difference: while Popes have the grace of office ('divine assistance') to help them make good disciplinary decisions (Walford gave the example of Pope St Pius X moving the age for First Communion), these are in a completely different category from dogmatic statements. They are assessed in relation to prudence; we don't ask if they are contained in the Deposit of Faith. That is why practice, including liturgy, can vary a fair amount from place to place and from time to time, whereas the Faith cannot. This is so even though what I mean by 'prudence' will take account of tradition and dogma, where these are relevant.

Walford needs the distinction, because he wants to say that giving Communion to public sinners is a 'practice', not a dogma. But having climbed up by it he kicks it away, claiming for a practice what is only available for a dogma: an obligation to assent. New practices may oblige us in some ways, obviously: we are now obliged to abstain from meat on Fridays in England and Wales, and weren't before 2009. Other disciplinary changes may apply to us without bringing in any obligations, such as Pius X's ruling on the earliest date for First Holy Communion. But while we should have respect for the bishops, councils, and Popes who make disciplinary decisions, and abide by them where applicable, there is absolutely no reason for us not to criticise them, or campaign for them to be changed. The present discipline on the Eucharistic Fast, for example, is ludicrous, and I and others have urged a change to it - while, obviously, observing it in the meantime. There is nothing disobedient about that.

If what is going on with Communion for the divorced and remarried were a matter of disciplinary change, we would expect a clear, legally effective statement to that effect from the Holy See, since the present discipline is a matter of law. We have seen nothing of the kind, and the Code of Canon Law still strictly prohibits the practice which, as far as it is possible to see, the Bishops of Buenos Aires and Malta want to apply. (I've just checked: yep, Canon 915 is still there.)

Another thing -- I'd say 'trick' but I think Walford is confused, not deceitful -- is the treatment of the Ordinary Magisterium. Walford points out that the Ordinary Magisterium is binding on Catholics, and can teach infallibly. These claims are true. Since Pope Francis has not issued the kind of formal document that would count as an act of the Extraordinary Magisterium, Walford suggests that he is teaching with the authority of the Ordinary Magisterium. Walford appears to think that the Ordinary Magisterium is anything the Pope says to change whatever the Pope wants to change, but this is not so.

First, if Walford is correct that the change at issue is disciplinary not dogmatic, the Pope does not need the Ordinary Magisterium. The Magisterium does not come into it. Disciplinary matters are laid out by reference to disciplinary / legislative authority, not teaching / magisterial authority. The Pope's authority to make disciplinary changes are in fact limited by law: though he can change the law, he must make the changes he wants to make through the law. If he refuses to change Canon 915, for example, priests are still bound by it however much he may, non-legislativly, tell them to act contrary to it. To obey the Supreme Legislator, the Pope, they must obey Canon 915.

Secondly, the Ordinary Magisterium, like the Extraordinary Magisterium, does not exist to change doctrine. Walford points out that it happens that Catholics become obliged to believe certain things, such as the Assumption, only when they are dogmatically defined. This is true, but they already believed things which implied the apparantly new doctrine. Christ gave the Church the Deposit of Faith, and everything binding about the Faith is contained in that.

Since we don't (indeed, can't) articulate to ourselves and then believe all the things which are implied by our existing beliefs, we can discover new things to believe which aren't exactly new, but implicit in our existing beliefs. I might not realise, for example, that 317 is a prime number, but its being a prime number is a logical consequence of other things I do believe. In the case of doctrine, it becomes an obligation to believe those implications of the Deposit of Faith which are drawn out authoritatively, from the Deposit of Faith, by the Church, by the Ordinary or Extraordinary Magisterium.

The Ordinary Magisterium can draw these things out without a General Council or an Ex Cathedra statement by the Pope. But for it to make sense to say that something has been taught by the Ordinary Magisterium, it has to be part of the Deposit of Faith. As Cardinal Pell said, you can't have 'doctrinal backflips'. That would suggest that the Deposit of Faith had changed. Or that the Truth was a liar.

Walford also claimed that you can't use the content of purportively authoritative doctrinal statements as part of the process of working out whether Catholics are obliged to believe them. Presumably, he imagines that only the outward form of pronouncements is important. It is strange indeed that we are having this discussion, because the present issue has arisen in the form is has precisely because Pope Francis has declined to use recognised, authoritative forms to make the assertions which he apparantly wants us to accept, if his endorsement of the Maltese and Buenos Aires guidlines, for example, is to be believed. Walford should postpone his championing of the outward form of dogamatic pronouncements until the time when he has some to show us.

Rather than go on about that, therefore, I will simply repeat that the Ordinary Magisterium is what the Church has always taught. An infallible use of the Ordinary Magisterium takes place when a Pope or Council reiterates what the Church has always taught, when, for example, it has been contradicted. It is not a tool to remake doctrine, and it cannot contradict itself. Popes cannot bind their successors in terms of discipline and law, but popes are certainly bound by their predecessors, and by the Doctors and Fathers, in terms of interpreting the Deposit of Faith. These are all, clearly, matters of the content of dogmatic statements.

Another issue is raised by Austen Ivereigh. Ivereigh likes to point out that not all the divorced and remarried are necessarily in a state of mortal sin, and that for this reason Pope St John Paul II allowed such as are living as 'brother and sister' to receive Communion. This is true, and opponents of the kind of practice advocated by the bishops of Malta and Buenos Aires should avoid saying either that all divorced and remarried Catholics are barred from Communion, or that priests should refuse Communion to those the priest judges to be in a state of mortal sin.

The discipline of the Church is different. Canon 915 says that those

'obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.'

Those not known to be obstinately persevering in grave sin - i.e. those not doing so 'manifestly' - are not to be refused Communion. The discipline is helpful to public - manifest - grave sinners, and is fitting in terms of the nature of the Blessed Sacrament, becuase it prevents a sacrilege. But the reason they are refused and others are not is because of scandal to the congregation. 

Ivereigh's suggestion is that what has changed a little in how divorced and remarried couples are treated (e.g. not insisting they live separately) could change some more. But although the argument of scandal may seem weak to modern eyes, it goes back to the discipline of the early Church and the words of St Paul. Here is the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, in the year 2000.

1. The prohibition found in the cited canon [915], by its nature, is derived from divine law and transcends the domain of positive ecclesiastical laws: the latter cannot introduce legislative changes which would oppose the doctrine of the Church. The scriptural text on which the ecclesial tradition has always relied is that of St. Paul: "This means that whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily sins against the body and blood of the Lord. A man should examine himself first only then should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup. He who eats and drinks without recognizing the body eats and drinks a judgment on himself."

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01/10/2017 - 16:27

Timothy Fawcett, RIP

Tim Fawcett, sometime Latin Mass Society Local Representative and Committee member, died on 28th September. Please spare a prayer for him, and his family.

Tim Fawcett on the Chartres Pilgrimage in 2014

This isn't a terribly good photo of him, but he was an indefatigable supporter of the Chartres Pilgrimage; in particular he did a lot of carrying the banner of the British Chapter, of Our Lady of Walsingham. He was a gentleman, a Catholic, and a true pilgrim.

His funeral will take place on 7th October. Not all the details are confirmed as I write; please email the LMS Office if you would like to attend and don't know how to find out more:

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30/09/2017 - 10:00

Me on EWTN

I appear at the beginning of this programme presented by Raymond Arroyo; having said my piece, they let me go and Arroyo discusses the issues raised, with his 'Papal Posse', Fr Gerald Murray (a canonist) and Robert Royal.

It was pre-recorded; I was in a BBC studio in Edinburgh. The reason for some of the awkwardness of the questions and answers between me and Arroyo was the five-second time lag down the line between Edinburgh and Washington DC. I couldn't hear him trying to interrupt me until five seconds after he did it. (When you appear like this you can't see the presenter.) They tried to edit out the resulting pauses but there are limits.

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29/09/2017 - 16:22

Correctio Filialis: a response to some critics

The Filial Correction published last Sunday has attracted more support than I, as a signatory, had dared to hope. Additional signatures from pastors and academics have been submitted by the score; a petition in support has been signed by more than 10,000 people and counting; and it has been reported widely in the secular as well as the Catholic press. 
There has been very little in the way of substantive response to the Correction from those who support what it criticises. Here I — in a personal capacity — want to look succinctly at three of the more serious attempts to get to grips with it. This is made easier by the fact that they all make essentially the same, erroneous criticism 
First, Stephen Walford writes, characteristically:
It is difficult to know where to start on this one: the hypocrisy or the risible accusations of heresy against the Holy Father. I’ll go with hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy is the state of those whose beliefs do not correspond with their words, particularly when they wish others to uphold standards in which they do not believe. Does Walford seriously imagine that the signatories are insincere? What on earth is their motivation, Mr Walford, if they don’t think their claims are even true? It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Walford does not actually believe that the signatories are hypocrites; he just likes the sound of the word.  He accusation, in fact, is quite literally hypocritical, as he insincerely accuses others of making insincere accusations. 
When he does get round to a substantial argument, it is that one of the quotations of Vatican I’s Pastor aeternus, in a footnote the Correctio, leaves out a bit which he personally likes. This must be very important: we all know now that the most important passages of a document are the footnotes. This omitted bit is:
…the See of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Saviour.
What does Walford imagine this passage means? Obviously, it is related to the doctrine of Papal Infallibility: ‘infallibility’ just means ‘unblemished by any errors’. So, does Pastor aeternus want us to think, like Rex in Brideshead Revisited, that when the Pope says ‘It’s raining’ it must be, even if when you look out of the window it is evident that it isn’t? No, Pastor aeternus is precisely the document which sets out the extremely limited circumstances in which one may say of the words of a Pope: ‘that statement is protected by the gift of infallibility’. 
Do these circumstances cover a pope’s private letter, say to the Bishops of Buenos Aires, which is subsequently leaked to the press? Do they include a pope’s agreement, perhaps a tacit one, to the printing of something, say guidelines for the application of Amoris laetitia composed by the Bishops of Malta, in the Vatican’s newspaper? No, Mr Walford, these are not infallible acts of the Petrine teaching office; they are not acts of the Petrine teaching office at all. 
Walford’s key mistake, then, is to ignore the central claim of the Correctio, and to focus on something the Correctio goes out of its way not to say. The real claim is: the Pope has left us little doubt about how he wants us to understand and apply Amoris, and this understanding is in the last analysis incompatible with the Faith. What Walford would like it to be saying is that Amoris is unambiguously erroneous in itself. 
Certain passages of Amoris do, perhaps, point in a problematic direction, but for myself I was ready to read them in light of the preceding teaching of the Church — anyone who doubts this can read the blog posts I composed in the immediate aftermath of its publication. Heck, I even criticised Steve Skojek over it. Now it’s me who is the idiot, along with everyone else who tried to give it the benefit of the doubt. What is key here, however, is not the precise wording of Amoris, but the way Pope Francis has been indicating, non-magisterially, that it should be understood. 
It is this same error of Walford’s which is repeated by Robert Fastiggi and Dawn Eden Goldstein. They have found a discrepancy between the official Latin text and the English translation, and claim that the authors of the Correctio were led astray by this. Well, that is a potentially interesting point, though as a matter of fact many signatories’ first languages are those in which, according to Fastiggi and Goldstein, Amoris got a better translation. Furthermore, the difference it makes does not appear to make any substantive difference to the meaning of the passage. 
However, I’m not going to go into all the details because it is irrelevant. It is not that we are saying that the text of Amoris cannot be bent into some kind of orthodoxy. What we are saying is that it has become clear that orthodoxy is not what Pope Francis wants us to find there. 
Finally, there is Jacob Wood. Much of his article is accurate and helpful. What is less so is in claiming that the Correction causes scandal. It should be obvious to anyone who loves the Church that it would be far more scandalous if a pope favoured error and faithful Catholics all remained silent. I hardly think this point needs to be laboured. 
But his final verdict on the Correctio appears to be this:
None of the passages of Amoris Laetitia cited by the correction explicitly denies that a person who knowingly and willingly commits grave evil cuts himself or herself off from God’s grace.
Having made the necessary distinction between the Pope proposing heresy explicitly and promoting it, Wood fails to consider the (personal) acts of Pope Francis, many listed in the Correctio, which do favour this idea. But that is what the Correctio is ultimately about. 
As noted, the substantive responses to the Correctio are, so far, seriously lacking in substance. There is a reason for this, of course. Not only is their case weak, but the very act of engaging in detailed argument about the substantive issues leads the discussion in a direction in which, it would seem, Pope Francis does not want it to go. He could have cleared up the ‘confusion’ at any time by issuing an magisterial statement, but there is value in the ambiguity since it allows a variety of interpretations while some can still claim — correctly — that nothing contrary to the Faith has been formally promulgated. As some of his defenders like to say, a dialogue, answering the Dubai for example, would be a ‘trap’. In a sense, any clarification would be a reassertion of the primacy of theological clarity, the magisterium, and rules. 

But that position, or refusing to clarify, is crumbling now. We have now had two Cardinals, Müller and the Secretary of Sate, Cardinal Parolin, calling for a serious engagement between the Vatican and critics such as the signatories and the ‘dubia’ Cardinals. Perhaps, just perhaps, are approaching the end game. 

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